The chemotherapy treatment began late this afternoon. At 5.10pm a litre bag of chemical goodness was hung from a metal pole, fed through a device which controls the release of it, and then on through a pipe into a port that’s been fitted to my right arm.
That in itself was something of a trauma as I have a major needle phobia. They prescribed a lot of Lorazepam, though I explained I’d need much more, and the process to feed a 46cm tube from my right arm and through a vein so I reached near my heart took place. All in all around 30 to 40 minutes by the team who used a variety of diagnostic tools including ultrasound to ensure the line was perfectly in place. They did it! I was a gibberish wreck but, hey, I don’t think anybody noticed…
Day one of the chemo is pretty intense. It’s a 24 hour continuous infusion of piclitaxel, alongside dexamethasone, diphenhydramine and one other to minimise the side effects, primarily nausea.
As I write this it all feels perfectly normal barring a very sore arm from where the line was fitted. Let’s see what happens with these side effects by the time tomorrow morning comes around.
On days two, three four and five I’ll get infusions of ifosfamide and cisplatin through my line, and a drug called mensa which will protect my bladder from damage.
After that it’s a mega dose of an antibiotic and then daily injections of blood thinners to reduce the risk of clots. That’s stuff, from day six onwards should be able to happen at home until day 21 when the whole cycle begins again back in Southampton General.
I may look different when I return as the consultant said my hair May start falling out as soon as week two. I have my beanie hats on stand by! Dates wise it looks like, with a fair wind, I could be home on a Christmas Eve, which would be just lovely.
The whole set up here is brilliant. The doctors and nurses clearly know what they’re doing, and all the support staff, from cleaners to those in charge of the food are super friendly and always happy to chat. And the choice of food is impression, with an a la carte menu to suit most, and an M&S and Costa in the entrance, too.
I also met the Channel Islands liaison nurse who deals with patients from Jersey and Guernsey who will book my travel on discharge day as soon as we know I’m a free man (for now). She also offered some thoughts for Alan who has to pay for his own flights and accommodation but wants to be here with me for all four of the cycles of treatment.
Being in hospital has brought back a number of memories of when I had chemotherapy 20 years ago. Little things like the slow pace of events on the ward, the inevitable “will I die?” feelings that you just can’t help, and also a reminder that while I feel fine just now, the chemo will start doing stuff fairly sharpish. Though how that’ll manifest itself in me is a current known unknown.
Alan, my husband, is here with me every step of the way. I know it’s been tough to see him taking it all in, watching on as a medical team we’re inserting the line as I had a mini meltdown, but primarily it’s about sitting being bored. We’re getting good use of podcasts, books and magazines, and we have games and an iPad full of a Netflix stuff for when the time is right.
A number of lovely friends have indicated they’ll be paying a visit on my second cycle here, and I’ve had message from back home offering all kinds of support from offers of coffee and cake, to chats where I can just vent, and even an offer to trim our front hedge. Practical and appreciated!
I’m sure by the next blog there’ll be more of a chemo experience to share with you but I just wanted to keep you updated and say thanks to the hundreds of people who either sent me messages or comments on social media posts. I haven’t replied to them all but I have read every single one. They all mean a lot and have been a joy to look back on and read during a couple of moments.
As it stands, there’s a mere 22 hours and 25 minutes left on this bag. It’s 6.45pm and, while it’s early, I think I’ll turn in for the night soon. Today’s kind of taken it out of me. Let’s see what Friday has in store.